All 25 plans on the agenda were submitted by the Civil Administration’s Higher Planning Subcommittee. More than half of the homes have received final approval for their construction.
While some projects are for settlements located near the Green Line, other approved schemes are for settlements deep in the West Bank. These projects include the project for 56 homes in Negohot, which has been submitted through an early planning phase known as the filing, and the project for 534 homes in Shevut Rachel, which has been submitted to the final planning phase.
In addition to approving thousands of new homes, plans have retroactively legalized the two outposts of Mitspe Danny and Oz Phogon. The former is the Jammeh neighborhood in the Ma’aleh Mkhmash settlement in the heart of the West Bank, while the latter is a nature reserve and education center built in the wake of the kidnapping and murder of Israeli teens Gil Ad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah and. Naftali Frenkel in the summer of 2014.
In a festive tweet in response to news of Mitzpe Dani’s approval, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked called it “a day of celebration for the settlement movement.”
In addition to settlement construction, an Israeli official told The Times of Israel on Thursday that the committee would also approve plans to build some 1,000 Palestinian homes in the West Bank.
Tor Wencesland, the United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, condemned the Israeli decision.
I condemn the decision of the Israeli authorities today to submit plans for more than 4,000 housing units in settlements in the occupied West Bank. This includes retroactive approval of two illegal sites and a park,” Wensland said in a statement. “Continued settlement expansion entrenches the occupation, encroaches on Palestinian land and natural resources, and impedes the free movement of Palestinian residents.”
Projects for Palestinians and Israeli settlers will be located in Area C, where Israel retains civilian control. Roughly 330,000 Palestinians and 450,000 Israeli settlers live in the 60 percent of the West Bank that makes up Area C, according to United Nations and Israeli authorities figures, respectively.
The approvals come about a month before Joe Biden makes his first visit to Israel and the West Bank as US president. His administration urged Jerusalem not to go ahead with the mandates and issued a statement condemning it last week.
The Biden administration has been clear about this from the start. “We firmly oppose settlement expansion, which exacerbates tensions and undermines trust between the parties,” State Department deputy spokeswoman Galina Porter said during a telephone briefing with reporters. “Israel’s settlement expansion program severely harms prospects for a two-state solution.”
Criticism of the committee’s work also came from within the settler movement, with some complaining that about 1,800 projects in various stages of approval had been removed from the agenda.
The Yesha Council, which includes an umbrella for settlers, claimed that among those who demolished 180 homes in the Mevut Yerehu settlement in the Jordan Valley.
According to a Channel 12 report over the weekend, Israeli officials told the US that approval of new settlement homes is crucial to keeping the current coalition government alive.
As the coalition teeters on the brink of collapse following the departure of Yamina MK Edith Silman last month, other right-wing lawmakers have demanded that the government introduce such measures in exchange for their remaining in the government.
Over the past several years, Israel has approved new sets of settlements on a quarterly basis, although the gaps between meetings of the Higher Planning Subcommittee have sometimes stretched longer during sensitive diplomatic periods. The committee operates under the Civil Administration of the Ministry of Defense, which manages construction in the West Bank in areas under full Israeli civilian control.
According to the report, the initial plan was for a total of 5,800 homes, which was reduced to 4,000 after discussions with US officials.